No mass die-off observed at Flower Garden Banks

Adrienne Correa and members of the October 2017 expedition to the Flower Garden Banks

An Oct. 20-25 research expedition to the coral reefs of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary offshore of Galveston conducted scuba dives at three sites and found no mass die-off from Hurricane Harvey floodwater runoff. An automated buoy at the reef recorded low salinity levels Sept. 28 and the expedition to evaluate the reefs was organized by Rice marine biologist Adrienne Correa and colleagues, with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Support is also expected from the National Science Foundation. Correa said an additional salinity drop was recorded on the first day of the expedition, and the team observed “some signs of stress in corals and sponges but no evidence of mass mortality from the two sites on the east bank and one site on the west bank, where we were able to dive. We got the samples we needed and a solid dataset on seawater characteristics heading out to the banks and in their vicinity. We can now further assess the potential effects of Harvey-associated runoff with tests in the lab, and all systems are go for a follow-up expedition in April.”

About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.